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‘Same-day housing’ program part of Manitoba Liberals proposal for combatting homelessness crisis

The Manitoba Liberals have released a four-point plan to tackle homelessness, drawing on examples from other Canadian jurisdictions, including a rapid housing program designed to provide immediate housing for anyone who needs it.

“There’s a serious crisis in homelessness, and some of it is that it’s been a crisis for so long that we’ve accepted it can’t be otherwise,” Liberal leader Dougald Lamont said at a news conference on Tuesday, where The plan was revealed.

“That needs to change.”

Lamont, who represents St. Boniface and is one of three Liberal MLAs currently in the Manitoba legislature, accused successive New Democrat and Progressive Conservative governments of failing to adequately address homelessness.

The party’s plan outlines four pillars, including a commitment to “same-day living” and the creation of a daily updated dashboard of services.

It would also include a renewed focus on the disproportionate rates of homelessness among tribal peoples and an income support and employment training program that would take into account how individuals end up without homes.

Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont, seen in an April 2022 file photo, says the “huge costs” associated with homelessness outweigh proposed spending on ways to solve the problem. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Liberal MLA and physician Dr. Jon Gerrard said the schedule for same-day placement would be modeled on a schedule used at Medicine Hat, which he recently visited.

He said he spoke to a person who had experienced homelessness in both that southeastern Alberta city and in Winnipeg.

“He told me… ‘I was in Medicine Hat. It’s like night and day compared to Winnipeg,'” said the River Heights MLA.

“There, he said, they wouldn’t even leave you homeless. They immediately put him in a motel and gave him all the information about his options and support. And here [in Winnipeg]he lived unassisted in a bus shelter.”

Lamont said people looking for stable housing in Manitoba don’t qualify for the support they need most until they’ve been chronically homeless for six months.

“Obviously we will never end homelessness as long as we tolerate people being homeless for six months before we are willing to help them,” he said.

The party has not yet been able to say how many additional housing units will be needed for the same-day living strategy and how much it would cost.

reconciliation approach

The second pillar of the plan is about embracing sheltering the homeless as an act of reconciliation.

Results from the 2022 Winnipeg street census found that 92 percent of the 1,200 people encountered during the 24-hour survey period were identified as Indigenous, although Indigenous people made up about 13 percent of the city’s population in 2021, according to Statistics Canada.

More than half of the homeless Native Americans identified in the census said they had gone through Manitoba’s child and family ministry system.

The Liberals say this part of their plan would include changes to that system, such as: B. More transitional benefits for people aging without care and extending the eligibility age for these benefits to 26.

“Right now, too many kids are being sent to animal shelters on their 18th birthday because there’s no plan or good way to help them,” Gerrard said.

income, employment supported

The plan’s third pillar focuses on a “path to self-employment” that aims to provide things like income support and job training support.

This program would also assess the underlying factors that contributed to people becoming homeless, whether it be poverty, addiction, mental health issues, a history with the CFS system, learning disabilities, conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or fetal alcohol syndrome or its part the 2SLGBTQ community.

Last fall’s street census found that about 11 percent of people under the 2SLGBTQ banner identified as dichotomous, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or some other identity, and they tended to be younger, on average, than the rest of the homeless population .

Many people who end up without homes fall through cracks in the education system because they had learning disabilities and they weren’t identified early, leading to them struggling in school and dropping out, Gerrard said.

Services Dashboard

He also said greater integration is needed between groups and government departments dealing with homelessness issues. The final pillar of the Liberal plan would aim to address this.

It revolves around creating a dashboard, updated every day, to identify where people living on the streets and organizations helping them can find available housing, warm-up spots, food and other services, the Liberals said.

Gerrard said the value of public dashboards has been shown during the pandemic, when many governments — including Manitoba’s — have maintained such online portals to track COVID-19 information.

Lamont said the “huge cost” of not providing support like this outweighs proposed spending on homelessness-related issues.

“The worse we treat people, the more it costs us, and that’s something that has hurt Manitobans,” he said.

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